Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos with Cranberry-Orange Salsa

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos with cranberry-orange salsaWhen I was a kid, Christmas records got play all year ‘round. I have vivid memories of summer vacation in t-shirts and shorts making up dance routines to Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with a neighborhood friend. This constant love for the holiday meant that I was making construction paper ornaments and cardboard wreaths while other kids were making slushies and… other things that one makes in the summer. (What do I know about that? I was busy coloring Christmas trees.)

Not everyone in my household was thrilled with the constant supply of holidays.  Although, my brother ended up marrying someone who counts down the days until Thanksgiving, so that she can start the non-stop string of music until December 25th. What can I say? He has excellent taste.

It’s funny how we make arbitrary rules about when things are appropriate. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m often the one bouncing down the Christmas aisles in stores in October while other people are grumbling, “It’s not even Halloween yet!”

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos with Cranberry-Orange SalsaEven down to the foods we eat, holidays are regimented. You don’t see people making marshmallow topped sweet potatoes and green bean casserole in May. Soy nog and all things pumpkin are hardly treats for the Fourth of July cookout. Some of it is seasonality. Pumpkins and cranberries are in season now, and so that’s what we’re having. Marshmallows are in season now, and so… Wait. The marshmallow/sweet potato thing doesn’t make sense on any level.

But more than seasonality, some of it just seems to be yearly preference. There’s no reason that coffee shops couldn’t sell Pumpkin Spice Lattes in June, but people don’t want them then, even if they’re still drinking hot coffee drinks. Cherries have a short growing season but are available all year in the frozen section, but cranberries, not so much. Unless you buy fresh cranberries in November and December and put them in the freezer, good luck finding them once January 1st rolls around.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Cranberry-Orange SalsaSo while you can attain them, grab a bag or two or three of cranberries. Pop some in the freezer and keep one container out for these black bean and sweet potato tacos with cranberry-orange salsa. They have a spicy edge to them and smokiness too by way of the chipotle pepper inside. (If you prefer less heat, remove the seeds from the pepper before including it.)

If you’ve never used chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, you’re in for a real treat.  You can find them in small cans for a couple of bucks in most grocery stores alongside the salsas, tortillas, and jarred peppers.  The peppers are swimming in adobo sauce, which has a wonderful smoky quality to it.  I use both a teaspoon of the sauce and one pepper for this recipe.  Like tomato paste, the remaining peppers in sauce can be frozen for future use.

I like to roast the sweet potatoes first before incorporating them with the black beans, so that they can easily brown without having to keep a constant eye on them in the skillet or adding a bunch of oil.

The tacos tick all of the pleasure sensors with smoky, sweet, tangy, and tart, soft and crunchy. A step outside of your ordinary taco, they’re also a way of using holiday leftovers in a unique way.

Serve them now while cranberries are all the rage, or save a bag for July for your own Jingle Bell dance party. Rules be damned.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos with Cranberry-Orange Salsa

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos with Cranberry-Orange Salsa

Yield: 6 Tacos


  • 1 large sweet potato, cut evenly into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 15 ounce can) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded if desired
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup water + 1 to 3 Tablespoons
  • 6 Hard Corn Taco Shells
  • Toppings: (Any or all of the following) Chopped green leaf lettuce, additional raw onion, chopped cilantro leaves, jalapeño slices
  • 1 batch Cranberry-Orange Salsa


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, toss sweet potato chunks with 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil and pinch of salt. Lay the chunks evenly across the baking sheet, making sure not to touch or overcrowd.
  3. Bake sweet potatoes for 20 minutes, stopping once or twice throughout the baking time to toss the potatoes for even browning. After 20 minutes, check to see if they're done - brown on the outside and soft on the inside. If not, cook 5 minutes longer. Once finished, remove from oven and set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, bring remaining teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to a medium heat. Saute garlic and onion 5 to 7 minutes, until fragrant and translucent.
  5. Add black beans, chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, adobo sauce, cumin, and paprika to the skillet along with 1/4 cup of water. Continue cooking until the beans are heated through.
  6. Add the sweet potatoes to the skillet and fully incorporate with the ingredients. If the spices are sticking to the skillet, add 1 to 3 Tablespoons of water, as needed, until all of the spices are fully incorporated and the mixture is moist without being watery. Taste for salt and add more if desired.
  7. Warm 6 hard corn taco shells on a baking sheet in the oven for about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Fill the taco shells with the black bean and sweet potato mixture, toppings of choice, and generous spoonfuls of cranberry-orange salsa.

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Cranberry-Orange Salsa with a Kick

Cranberry-Orange Salsa: A spicy alternative to cranberry sauceI had such a lovely Thanksgiving. There was lots of quality time with family.  We played massive games of Apples to Apples and Taboo. Oh, and of course, there was plenty to eat.

This year for the main course I opted for one of my favorite prepared options, the Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute from Field Roast. Anything wrapped in puff pastry is guaranteed to be delicious, and this is no exception. I’ve had the Field Roast other years, and I like how it’s a full-service entrée with savory seitan and stuffed with Field Roast sausages, cranberries, and apples.  When there are already so many other things to make, it’s nice to have a main course that you can just heat and eat, especially when you’re taking your meal on the road to someone else’s home.

Field Roast En Croute

I’d had big plans of sticking with just a few sides, but somehow the list of “must haves” just kept growing. David made cherry pie. I made Somer’s holiday cheddar cheese ball, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts with apples and caramelized onions, and Traditional Bread Dressing (stuffing) using the recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes. (My only change was adding a teaspoon each of dried sage and thyme, since my vegetable broth isn’t highly seasoned.)

Vedged Out Cheeseball made from cashewsI also made Cranberry-Orange Salsa. Instead of the usual cranberry sauce cooked down with sugar in a pan, I made a raw salsa brightened with the flavors of orange juice and orange zest. With pickled jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice, it had a spicy and savory kick along with a bit of sweetness from the orange juice and sugar.

The tart cranberries soften and become sweeter as they sit in the refrigerator. So I recommend making the cranberry salsa ahead of time. I made it the day before Thanksgiving, and that worked out. It will keep well for at least several days.

In addition to being used as a topping with Thanksgiving options like roasted sweet potatoes and Field Roast, I have another mouthwatering way of using this salsa, which I’ll be sharing in my next post! If cranberries are on sale where you live, grab them before they’re gone for the season. (Remember, whole cranberries also freeze well.)

Cranberry-Orange Salsa: A spicy alternative to cranberry sauce

Cranberry-Orange Salsa with a Kick


  • 7.5 ounces whole fresh cranberries
  • 2 Tablespoons yellow onion, chopped small
  • 2 Tablespoons red bell pepper, chopped small
  • 1 Tablespoon pickled jalapeño slices
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • Zest of 1/2 small to medium-sized orange
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves


  1. In a food processor, briefly combine all of the ingredients until they are equal sizes with the ingredients fully incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides if needed.
  2. Transfer to a glass container, cover, and let the flavors meld for a day. The cranberries will soften and become sweeter with time.

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